Jasper's Picks for Spoleto 2012 -- weekend #1

It's not that there's not enough art in Jasper's hometown of Columbia, SC to keep the old boy entertained. He just likes to stretch his legs -- and his horizons -- by visiting other arts centers once in a while. And, we'll admit it -- Jasper adores Spoleto! In fact, Jasper fancies the Spoleto Festival so much so that he'll be blogging from Charleston (in a couple of voices) over the next few weeks and keeping you loyal winners abreast of what's going on in the Holy City. If you've been considering a road trip to Spoleto this weekend, here are Jasper's picks for the best events to take in.

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is a quirky multi-media performance presented by a theatre company out of London called 1927. The mix of music, live action and animation all on one stage is what caught Jasper's eye. We also found this lovely review in the Guardian:

"Suzanne Andrade, Esme Appleton, musician Lillian Henley and animator Paul Barritt evoke life in a seedy tenement block, Bayou Mansions, on the fringe of a big city. This is like a murky version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which first appeared in 1927, populated by rats, cockroaches and all manner of social outcasts. But the sharply subversive script shows how a gang of child-pirates go on the rampage, take over a middle-class park and even kidnap the mayor's cat before being whisked off in black ice-cream vans and effectively sedated. But their cry of "we want what you have out there" strikes a chill chord after this summer's riots.The 70-minute show makes its points with visual and verbal humour rather than heavyweight hectoring. A live, do-gooding liberal mum descends on the estate with her cartoon daughter to set up an art club only to retreat when the going gets tough. And the idea that we seem to be permanently stuck with grotty sink-estates is perfectly counterpointed by the lightning transformations of Barritt's brilliant animations, where coffins turn into telephones and cockroaches. Performed by a quick-changing, white-faced female trio, the show feels like a heady mix of Berlin cabaret, silent movie and social commentary."

Once we read the terms "sharply subversive," "black ice cream vans," and "art club," we didn't even have to read "white-faced female trio" or "Berlin cabaret" to know we wanted to be in the audience. There are 9 performances between May 25th and June 3rd. We hope you find your way to one.

Watch Alvin Ailey Dance Theater here

At Jasper, we're pushovers for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and we don't miss the opportunity to see this wonderful and inspiring dance troupe perform. The company will be performing two programs for this year's festival and we're delighted to report that their iconic piece Revelations will close out both of them. If you see dance at the Spoleto Festival this year, make sure you see Alvin Ailey.

Making up the Truth is an odd performance that is a cross between a lecture and comedic story telling hour, with Jack Hitt, frequent contributor to Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, and (Jasper's favorite radio program) This American Life.  We love this description of the show:

In his new solo show, Jack Hitt tells extravagant, almost unbelievable, true stories that take him from his early childhood in South Carolina (where his flamboyant neighbor, a British novelist, became global news as one of the world's first transsexuals) through his trek to New York (where his apartment super kept a deadly secret identity). MAKING UP THE TRUTH weaves these and other stories together with the latest experiments in cognitive research. Scientists of the mind are now studying the mechanics of how we all narrate our own stories in our brains, and Jack searches them out to answer the question everyone always asks him, "Why do these things always happen to you?" They don't, the experiments show. We are all making up the truth, often to shield ourselves from what Jack discovers: the uncanny wonders that lie just beyond our brain's notice. And that tale, it turns out, is another extravagant, almost unbelievable, true story.

Leo is a gravity-defying show by a German troupe called The Circle of Eleven. Here's the blurb on Leo that hooked us:

"Through a clever juxtaposition of live performance with projected film, two Leos move through identical spaces governed by opposing physical laws. [Tobias] Wegner exploits every potential for invention and comedy as Leo tests the limits of his strange environment, moving from humble tricks with hats to breakdancing up walls. Leo is a funny, surreal, and surprisingly touching work that challenges the senses and tests perceptions of reality."